By Rachel Royster | Staff Writer
Baylor has seen a distinct difference in COVID-19 cases between the fall and spring semester due to university-enforced precautions and 100% weekly testing.
Based on the precautionary steps the university has taken, along with the vaccine roll-out and a tapering off of hospitalization, Dr. Benjamin Ryan, clinical associate professor in the Baylor Environmental Health program, predicts “a fair degree of normal” in the summer on Baylor’s campus.
Ryan has worked in public health and environmental health at local, state and federal levels, including experience with various disease outbreaks including Ebola, swine flu and malaria. He now works with Baylor in helping with the current COVID-19 outbreak.
“We learned a lot during the fall semester,” Ryan said. “Now we’ve got amazing situational awareness that we can just jump on things if we need to. I think that’s the real difference is that we haven’t seen the same surge as the fall. The spring has been a bit lower and a lot flatter, and that is really reflective of our 100% a week testing program.”
In accordance with the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baylor has implemented various COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing and wearing face coverings.
“Baylor’s COVID policies have been very effective in really suppressing the spread on campus,” Ryan said “It seems to be working really well for us to be able to navigate and really jump on cases early.”
So far, Baylor has spent about $20 million on costs related to COVID-19, Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president of media and public relations, said. These expenses include “testing, anything related to social distancing, monitoring, contact tracing [and] additional cleaning.” She also said that “those expenditures are expected to increase.”
Now, with the weekly testing of all Baylor students, faculty and staff, there has been a noticeable difference between the fall and spring semesters. All-campus testing has been a critical part of tracking the COVID-19 cases on campus moving forward.
According to the CDC, “testing to diagnose COVID-19 is one component of a comprehensive strategy and should be used in conjunction with promoting behaviors that reduce spread, maintaining healthy environments, maintaining healthy operations and preparing for when someone gets sick.”
In looking ahead to the rest of the spring semester, Ryan expects the 100% testing strategy will make the university safer, and therefore, able to host more activities. This will greatly depend on the number of positive test results dwindling.
“I’m thinking the summer time frame is very plausible for us to be getting close to getting to normal,” Ryan said. “Again this is like a weather forecast. It’s a long term weather forecast in a way that we just don’t know. On campus and in the broader community, we’re just looking at this week-by-week because that’s all we can do at the moment.”